“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.”
– Psalm 77:11
Maybe you’ve been there…stuck in a pattern of fear and anxiety you can’t control. You try over and over again to stay calm as you engage life, and yet your fears and anxieties take over your soul without mercy. What is there to do? Is there any hope to have a life in which anxiety and fear do not rule you? I believe the answer is yes. It takes a lot of grace from God, a community of people that love you, hard work and discipline, but the answer is yes.
Remembering is as much about the future as it is about the past.
One of the reasons fear and anxiety are so hard to beat is because we don’t remember faithfully. You see, remembering is as much about the future as it is about the past. It is not rocket science; we face the future according to how we remember the past. And most of us have a tendency to remember what has been difficult or bad and overlook what’s been good. And so, when we face life, we expect the worse.
What makes it harder is that much of this remembering happens outside of our immediate awareness. We don’t intentionally choose to remember what’s bad and overlook what’s been good. We just do it.
So, how do we remember faithfully? I’ve found three strategies that are helpful for cultivating faithful remembering. These strategies, seeped in grace, will allow you to face the future with more confidence in God and less fear and anxiety. None of these strategies are a quick fix, but if you cultivate them, I promise you that in the long run your fears and anxieties will be weaker.
3 STEPS TO UNDERMINE FEAR & ANXIETY BY CULTIVATING FAITHFUL REMEMBERING
1) Remember how you’ve remembered.
Take a look at your story and consider how you have remembered it. Is your story full of regret and pain? Is there a particular event in your story that taught you to fear? That taught you life was unsafe and unpredictable? As you consider your story, take some time to acknowledge and mourn what has been difficult and painful. Then, make room to see and to remember (Psalm 77:11) how God was present and faithful through those dark moments, how he sustained you, and how He brought about goodness in your life despite the suffering you experienced.
This process is not meant to be done in 10 minutes. It should take a long time, perhaps weeks or months. Also, a wise and trusted friend and/or counselor may be a great help to walk through this. Tell them your story, let them mourn with you, and let them remind you how God was good & faithful through it all.
If you want some inspiration, read the story of Joseph in the Bible. The book of Genesis recounts how, after a life full of betrayal, Joseph was able to look back and say “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” Gen 50:20. When Joseph looked at his past, he knew God had been with him all along.
Pay attention to and record how God is being good to you today Another great strategy to remember faithfully is to pay attention to and record how God is being good to you today. So, take up your pen and make a habit of recording how God is good, even in the midst of suffering and difficulties. This may require effort because our natural tendency is to focus on what we hate or what we fear. But if you are in Christ, there is goodness and faithfulness surrounding you (Psalm 25:10). Look around for it and let it nourish your soul. Look for it in people; a phone call, an email, a conversation over coffee, your friends and your family. Look for it in creation.
As I write this, Fall is making an incredible display of glory in the trees that surround my city. There is beauty and goodness everywhere for those who want to see.If you can’t see it at all, lean on your people and ask them for help to see how God is present and good in your circumstances.
3) Imagine (“remember” the future).
As you face the life God has given you, along with all its trouble, imagine, in light of how God has been good in the past and is good today, how God will be good in the future. Put away the images you have of a doomed, failed future and imagine a future in which God has sustained you through and worked out good despite whatever difficulties you’ve had to face. Picture yourself as someone who has been provided for or as someone who was been through the fire victoriously. See yourself loved by God and loved by others. That will deal a deadly blow to your fears and anxieties.
Remember, you face the future according to how you remember the past and face your present. Anxiety and fear will dominate your life if you don’t remember faithfully, if you don’t make an effort to see how God is and has been good and faithful to you.
Leandro Lozada is from Puebla, Mexico and serves as Program Director for Love Thy Neighborhood. He is a graduate of Southern Seminary with an emphasis in Christian Ministry.